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The Blog of Robert Rosenkranz

Complex Issues The Quality of Discourse

by robertrosenkranz on October 23, 2017

Robert Rosenkranz introduces Complex Issues: The Quality of Discourse

How much do we really listen when someone voices an opinion that differs from our own? That’s among the matters discussed today as we’re joined by special guest Peter Schuck, the author of “One Nation Undecided,” which takes an honest, thought-provoking look at the state of decision-making, opinion-forming and discourse-sharing in America.

When it comes to the hard issues, such as poverty, immigration and affirmative action, Schuck laments, people hold views that are so polarized that they don’t even want to look at each other, never mind take the time to try and understand what the other side has to say. To improve the state of discourse among Americans, he argues, we need to cultivate a sense of respect for the people that dare disagree with is. In doing so, we learn to listen, to question our own beliefs and, possibly, even take a fresh viewpoint on something we thought we felt strongly about.

Which brings us to another question Schuck asks repeatedly throughout his work – how do people go about making up their minds in the first place? Many people feel so strongly about their beliefs that they don’t want to “test” them, and they hesitate to ask themselves the truly hard questions. Is there a solution? Is there a way to make people learn to see eye-to-eye on the nation’s most divisive issues?

Getting everyone to agree and share the same fundamental beliefs is never going to happen, but that’s OK, Schuck says. Reasonable people can still end up with different viewpoints, and discussing conflicts exclusively with people who agree with us creates little more than an echo chamber. What’s more important is paying more attention to the ways in which we make up our minds in the first place. By identifying relevant facts, trying to understand conflicting versions of those facts, recognizing where legitimate conflicts arise and listening to others in the process, we can vastly improve the quality of modern discourse in America

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